Ecuadorians Struggle Against FTAA

April 18, 2006

Over the last month, the Ecuadorian people have been unfolding a massive nationwide movement. In the forefront of the people's demands are opposition to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas and an end to the government's contract with Occidental Petroleum, a U.S. oil company.

The movement was initiated by the indigenous peoples on March 13 in response to the intense pressure being exerted by the U.S. government which is demanding that the Ecuadorian government, headed by Alfredo Palacios, sign the FTAA.

The Ecuadorian Confederation of Indigenous Nations (CONAIE) has consistently exposed the FTAA as part of the imperialist strategy of the U.S. to gain trade advantages and annex the economies of Latin American countries. CONAIE writes: "The signing of the FTAA would mean the destruction of the country's agricultural production, which is the base of our economic sustenance and Ecuadorian food security and sovereignty, currently threatened by the introduction of subsidized and transgenic products. Another threat is the privatization of water located in the highlands and in the indigenous constituencies of the Amazon. Oxygen is to be privatized with the buying and selling of "environmental services."

In addition to the indigenous peoples, who make up a majority of the Ecuadorian population, the trade unions, the high school and university students and others have joined in the anti-FTAA struggle. On a daily basis, the people are organizing marches, demonstrations, road blockades, strikes, etc.

CONAIE and other organizations are also demanding the convocation of a Constituent Assembly to carry out a thoroughgoing democratization of the country.

The regime of Alfredo Palacios, under direct threat from the U.S. which has its troops deployed in the Manta military base in Ecuador, has arrested protestors, suppressed various actions and is threatening further repression.

Writing about the current situation, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador writes:

"We are currently going through a critical period in the country's life, in which the main actors are the peoples of Ecuador. They have chosen to come massively into the streets as their way to express themselves politically. Work stoppages took place in various regions fighting for specific immediate demands, along with the mobilizations that the indigenous movement carried out specially in the central and north areas of the mountains to show their rejection to the Free Trade Agreement and demanding an end to the contract that the Ecuadorian government maintains with OXY (Occidental Petroleum)."

"The popular movement against the FTAA and the OXY is gaining strength, it is not only the indigenous movement that is putting forward these demands. The high school and university students had developed combative movements, with the very same demands, during the first two weeks of January; the strike started March 8 by the workers included those same demands as well. As the struggle spreads the repression does too. The Secretary of Defence, Osvaldo Jarr¡n, went on national TV to threaten the protesters and his men had viciously attacked people in the cities of Napo, Sucumb¡os and other protests that took place recently."

Commenting on the statements of the Armed Forces in support of the Palacios regime, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador says: "The statement issued by the Armed Forces is only the echo of the desires and orders of the U.S. embassy, that wants Ecuador to quickly sign the Free Trade Agreement, and quickly means that it wants it signed by the current Ecuadorian administration. This is also the aim of the Ecuadorian oligarchy, showing thus its anti-popular and submissive nature, that is calling for the approval of the FTAA."